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5.5G Reef Tank Diary


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Click here for the most current information on my system (After adding the 2.5g tank as an addition)




Most recent:







Because I got my live rock from an established tank, I did not have to worry about cycling (I hope). I am keeping a log so that other newbie’s will be able to learn from my mistakes. I know this is long, but anyone new to the hobby can learn a lot by following the first few weeks of a new tank (or by using the search function ;) ) If you don't have the time or patients for either of those two things, then this is not the hobby for you.


Although I was thinking about getting a 2.5g for my nano project, I decided to play it safe and go with a 5.5AGA aquarium. The Fish Store and More in Atlanta, GA had an amazing one on display, so I knew that they would be able to help me in my quest. Although I had played around with a 20G long FOWLR before with a friend, I really wanted to go as small as safely possible with my nano. My goal is to make this tank completely self-sufficient one day (although even then I plan to do the regular maintenance).


Week One

August 22nd 2004 6:00PM


Began setting up equipment purchased a few hours ago. Here is what I bought to begin my tank with:


5.5 AGA tank

Glass top

20-pound bag of CaribSea's AragAlive

Aquaclear mini mechanical filter

50-watt heater with built in thermostat

17" JBJ 2x24watt lighting (One regular one actinic)

Tetratec Deep pump W/dual air stones


I used about 2/3rds of the live sand in order to get a 1 1/2 inch sand bed. I use charcoal once a week for 24 hours in the filter. Just for safety I placed a thermometer on the opposite side from the heater. Although I purchased one pump to power my air stones, I changed it for a quieter one (Tetratec Deep). I also split the airline with a T-bar so that I would be able to have two separate air stones. I am considering switching the air stones to a powerhead based on popular opinion. I still need to get a timer for my lights.


If you are starting your own tank similar to mine, you will also want:


- A magnetic cleaner

- Water test kit (I recommend the Tetratest package because it comes with a handy device to quickly doll out just enough water. This shot-like device also comes in handy for feeding coral/feather dusters just the right amount of food.

- Timer for your lights

- Turkey baster for blowing sand off live rock

- Small zip ties to hold all your wiring/air tubing neet

- either a powerhead or a pump/tubing/and air stone(s) There is a device to make sure water does not go back into your pump. I recommend installing this inexpensive device.


-A few other things I am sure I have forgotten


A few days later I picked up the Live Rock from a friends established tank. With this LR came an anemone that I could not ID. I later found out this anemone was a Haitian Reef Anemone. After researching the needs of this anemone, I have put it up for trade. I hope to get some more zoos or other type of coral for it in trade. Anyways, I tested the water 48 hours later and here are the results:


Salinity 32

Specific G. 1.024

Temp 79

PH 8.1

Amonia .5

Nitrite < .03

Nitrate ?



The next morning readings appeared to be all in the green, so I brought some water to the LFS and sure enough, they said I was green to go for some goodies. My first live purchases included:


One large featherduster

Two Blue Legged Hermits

Four Assorted Snails

One Fire Shrimp


One medium sized piece of rock with

- Assorted Zoo's (Boring brown, brown with mean green tips, and brown with glowing orange centers)

- One Large blue mushroom with baby ‘shroom next to it

- One small green mushroom


I scrapped off the bubble algae in a separate container to avoid the spores from spreading in the main tank. In addition, I got calcium that I plan to inject into the apitasia with a needle to kill it. You can also do this by using Joe's Juice. I was lucky to learn that feather dusters might need phytoplankton feedings to survive so I got some of that. I also got a bottle of trace element replacement.


Here is a picture of the live rock I received. Thank you to everyone who helped me figure out what everything is.




1) Bristle worms (Good- Help clean, although some people seem to think they are bad)

2) Haitian Reef Anemone (Good if you can care for it)

3) Apitasia (BAD - Remove with Joes Juice)

4) White (spaghetti) worms. (good)

5) Green bubble algae (Bad)

6) Zoanthids (Very Good)

7) Green mushroom (Also very good)

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I have been considering using an Aquaclear 500 as a refugium. I would keep Chaeto in there to help get rid of the nitrates in my tank. However, I decided that for now I will just get a little bit of Macro algae and place it in the main tank. If it gets out of hand then I will make the investment into a refugium, but for the meantime, I see no need. With the money I saved by not getting a refugium I bought two nano packages from Phishy Business. Here is the info on the packages that I got (from http://www.phishybusiness.com/nano.php):



You will receive two Sinularia and one Xenia from 1-2 inches tall. One polyp of Caribbean Ricordia. One GSP, two Zoanthids, and one Palthoa in 1"x1" sections. One color Mushroom rock with 2-3 polyps.



You will receive 9 different colorful Zoanthids in this pack. Frag size is approximately a 1.5"x1.5" section. Zoanthids in this pack come from colonies originally from Fiji, Bali, and Jakarta. There are no brown Zoanthids in our inventory. You will not get doubles. We have researched other deals on the net and bought from other companies to see what they offer. This is the best deal satisfaction guaranteed.


Since I will not be able to place them on the tank on Tuesday, I am having them ship the packages Tuesday night so that they will arrive early on Wednesday. This should give me time to place them in my tank before my classes. I look forward to even MORE aquascaping :).


On August 29th I noticed high levels of ammonia. Possibly, I will have to go through a cycle. I hope that it is small and short. I performed a 25% water change. I might do another one in a few days.


Since my shrimp tends to hang out upside down a lot and sway back and forth, I decided to name him "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oy Oy Oy" (Or Aussie for short). Although he is generally shy, he becomes very curious when I take the camera out to photograph the tank. He is not at all camera shy.



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Thanks for the compliment. It should look much better in 24hrs. I have a massive shipment coming in. In addition, I plan to purchase a cleaner shrimp and a Stag Antler Hermit Crab. Once these come in I will begin planning my fuge.


Here are some "before" pictures for comparison with tomorrows shipment. I did not have time to get the new cleaner or crab today, so it might be a week or so before I can get them.



This is about as close as I can get and still have a good focus:



And a far away shot to judge the size:


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Amongst all the excitement of getting my new crab and watching my snail dance, I noticed some bad signs: Brown Algae (Diatoms) and some white buildup on the LR. Not sure why, but it looks like my rock is NOT fully cured. I guess regular water changes will have to be done to protect the living things currently in the tank, but I also have to allow the tank to cycle. Luckily, I did my second water change in two days, and plan on doing another one when my new coral shipment comes in Wednesday.


I am happy to report that besides my large FeatherDuster, I have noticed 3-4 smaller ones throughout the tank. I am especially pleased with the locations of the baby ones, and hope they grow to reach adult size one day.

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that looks really nice and clean i like it alot. my only suggestion is that you get rid of the airstones and get powerheads.



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Purchased a powerhead. It seems to be too much current for my mushrooms. I will have to relocate them. I used Krazy Glue to attach some of my corals to more permanent locations. It is slowly making a difference on the overall appearance of the tank. I am confident that with the new LR that is currently cycling and time, the tank will be better than I had planned.


I received some macro algaes and purchased an Aquafuge, so a refugium will be up and running soon. Here are a few pictures that I think you might enjoy:











I plan on visiting several different LFS's tomorrow. I am searching for either a firefish or a small false percula to actually have a fish in my fishtank. This will be my only fish, so I must choose wisely. I will also be on the lookout for some snails and some basic tank maintenance stuff.

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I found another amazing LFS in the Atlanta area. I will try to post some pics of it soon. I highly recomend everyone in the Atlanta area checks out Cappuccino Bay Aquarium in Marieta. There coral selection is unmatched, with good prices too.




I will have a new/FINAL full tank picture soon. All the aquascaping is finally done with almost everything glued to its final location.

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Well, I had my first casualty this morning. Yesterday the power went out which caused all the airconditioning units to fail. It was in the 80's last night and I woke up to find my cleaner shrimp freaking out. Did a little water test to see if anything was out of wack, and I could tell the water felt warm. I loked at the thermometer and it was 85.5 degrees in the water. I ended up losing the shrimp, and my feather duster shed its crown (Maybe because of an 8.0 PH though). I performed a 25% water change with cooler water and this has brought the temp down to 81, but since that is teh temperature of the room, I doubt I will be able to lower it much more than that. Hopefully it does not get to hot today or untill the AC's can be fixed.

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A new Full tank shot (Sept 11th.) Monday my Aquafuge should be in. I am hoping that the Apartment can fix the AC soon though, since I am constantly in th 82 degree range without ever turning on the heater. My feather duster has also bit the dust, and the green corals (not sure of the name, star polyps perhaps), seem to not want to come out anymore. Other than that the tnak is looking strong. After the refugium is set up and helps to lower the nitrates, I hope to add a small Ocellaris clown.

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ive had friends that had green star polyps that havent come out for like a month dont throw it away just give it some good light and it should aclimate and come out :) did you cycle your tank? cuz it seems so new very good job with it tho keep it up.

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The tank did not need a full cycle since all the LR placed in it was from an established tnak. I experienced a little die off, and am currently curing more LR that I can place in the refugium. That curing cycle is about 50% finished. Thank you on the compliments. I think that I am just going to sit back and let the corals spread for now.


edit: Also found out today that the anemone like pieces on the new branch-rock I got are RBTA's. I have some plain looking ones as well as some with geen tips.

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I got Fiji Pink. The grade of the sand ranges from .5-1.85mm. It is considered extra fine. This was the smallest grain I could find. I know that the Bahamas Oolite is suppose to be even finer (.1-1.20mm), but I could not find it anywhere. I am hoping that this finer grain sand will have more surface area for the bacteria to grow on.

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Received my refractometer today from Dr. Foster Smith. My floating arm hydrometer was reading 1.026, but my refractometer reads 1.025. Not too much of a difference, but at least now it is more fun to check for the salinity.


I can't believe its only been about a month. Here is a HUGE update of pictures:






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